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Q&A with Tommy Poulin, Benefits Advisor


Tommy Poulin, Benefits Advisor
Tommy is a Benefits Advisor at TechServe Alliance. He works closely with groups of all sizes to build unique strategies for their employee benefits portfolio, as well as income protection for business owners and managers.

Prior to joining the TechServe team in April, Tommy worked as the top sales producer at Connected Benefits, a GoHealth company headquartered in Chicago, IL. Tommy was recruited by TechServe Alliance and identified as the perfect candidate to help build out their new employee benefits division working hand in hand with the Pendella LLC team, who were the founding members of Connected Benefits.

Tommy currently lives in Fort Myers, FL and is an avid golfer. While he is not “on a good walk spoiled”, he enjoys everything related to personal development: reading, attending conferences, listening to podcasts, and working out.

Q: So Tommy, how did you fall into the world of employee benefits?
A: With great intention. In 2012 I was an agent at AFLAC and got out of the business when I moved to California. In 2015 I was living in Tampa when my roommate got hired for an insure-tech company. After listening in on their team calls and understanding the business model, I knew I HAD to work there. After 6 months of planting seeds and planning, the opportunity to hire someone at that company came and the rest is history.

Q: What do you like most about working with small businesses and business owners?
A: The ability to impact a business and its employees in an immediate, meaningful way. To the business owner, that might mean the ability to scale and grow their business, which can now serve many more clients/customers. To the employees, that can mean providing more healthcare coverage at a lower cost. Win/Win.

Q: If a company doesn’t know where to start when it comes to their benefits, what advice do you usually give to them? Is there a “first-things-first” question that you ask?
A: Yes when it comes to group benefits I like to first ask them to consider the five questions; What? Why? When? How? Who? What are the decisions concerning your benefit plans? Why did you make those decisions? When did you make those decisions? How did you make those decisions? Who made those decisions? The landscape has changed and time has passed. If a group can’t confidently answer those questions, that is the best place to start.

Q: What would you say is the most “important” benefit that an employer can offer? And is that the same as the most “valuable” benefit, or is there a difference between the two?
A: Disability Insurance that is portable and contains a guaranteed insurability rider. Disability insurance is the most valuable and important insurance, even over life and health insurances. Income is how everyone can pay their bills; mortgage, car notes, groceries, etc. Without income nothing gets paid and therefore we have to protect your most valuable asset-- your ability to produce income. You don’t buy this type of policy with your money, you purchase it with your health status. If you are no longer healthy and qualify, you may never be able to purchase the product. Your health can change in the next minute and once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Q: What do you think is the hardest concept to explain to employers when it comes to implementing an employee benefits strategy?
A: The key word is strategy. The purpose of a benefits plan is to attract and retain good employees. This is going to cost money in order to have a return on investment i.e scaling the company with the right staff members. Offering a plan just to be nice and offering one at the lowest possible contribution doesn’t help anybody. If that’s the case, a company is better off offering employer paid disability, life, dental, and vision coverages which will cost less than $100 per employee per month.

Q: What is the most important thing that employers can do when they introduce a new benefit to their employees?
A: Communication. Communication before, during and after the changes are made. This will allow employees to ask questions which will ease their fears over change; losing doctors, losing medications, etc. The pain of losing is twice as powerful as the pleasure of gaining. Communication quells that fear.

Q: What do you, personally, want to learn more about within the employee benefits industry?
A: Self-Funding, specifically health plan captives. Large employers should be empowered and not at the mercy of the insurance carriers. Self funding allows for that. Combine 20 large groups together and now they have tremendous buying power; lowering costs and improving benefits.

Q: What have you learned and/or found most surprising about the TechServe groups that you’ve worked with so far?
A: Most of the companies are structured in a similar fashion- W-2 salary internal staff and W-2 hourly consultants, where the consultants outnumber the internal staff by 10X. What surprises me most is the low participation percentage for eligible employees, who on average are younger and earn a good living. It will be our job to find a solution for this need because lots of high income earners have little or no access to healthcare and income protections.

Q: What is the greatest savings amount that you’ve been able to provide to a company so far?
A: I was able to secure a 41% savings for a group I worked with in Texas. They were about 20 employees and we moved them off a fully-insured BCBS TX plan onto a level funded health plan (after qualifying). The group was young and healthy-- the ideal candidate.

Q: Read any good books or blogs lately?
A: It Takes What It Takes by Trevor Moawad. The book is for anyone who wants to get better. “We all want things, and there’s value to that; want is a precursor to motivation. But want is an idea. Commitment is execution.”

Q: If you could choose to be famous for just one thing, what would it be?
A: Helping others accomplish their goals, dreams, and desires.

Q: What’s a superpower that you have that others would be jealous of?
A: I get to see the Red Sox at spring training every year. My dad has season tickets; it’s the best time of year! All vacation time is earmarked for that spring schedule.

Contact Tommy Poulin, Benefits Advisor, at poulin@techservealliance.org. To schedule a benefits discussion, please click here.